President Clinton says that if he were an average citizen, "Joe Six-Pack," he might regret not getting his day in court against Paula Jones. But as president, he says, he's glad the case was dismissed and he can get on with his job.
Americans are telling pollsters they want the independent counsel's investigation of the president to end as well.With a federal court decision last week to dismiss Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against the president, friends of the president said Sunday that the time is right for Clinton to speak out on the other sensational case against him: allegations of a sexual relationship with former intern Monica Lew-in-sky and of urging her to lie about it.
Clinton, in an interview in the Time magazine edition on newsstands Monday, said the end of the Jones case helps not only him but the United States.
"If I were just a private citizen, Joe Six-Pack, I would have mixed feelings about not getting a chance to disprove these allegations in court," Clinton told Time. But he added: "I don't have mixed feelings as president, because having the case dismissed and putting this behind us is plainly in the best interest of the country."
Clinton again denied Jones' charges that as Arkansas governor in 1991 he made unwanted sexual advances in a Little Rock hotel room.
Asked about the Supreme Court decision to let the civil case against a sitting president proceed, Clinton said he has done his best to live up to the court's opinion that the lawsuit would not affect his job.
The challenge was to keep his personal problems and his official duties separate. "It's been a test," he said, "but I've tried to do that."
He said the case also confirmed historical anxieties that such a case "would have an overwhelming political aspect to it."
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who dismissed the case, told Newsweek: "I don't feel like my decision was courageous. I'm sworn to follow the law and I tried to do that. I just want to go back to being a regular judge."
The president's aides offered that with the dramatic turn in the Jones case, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr should wrap up his investigation so the White House and Congress can concentrate on what's important for the country.
"The American people want less, not more," adviser Rahm Emanuel, on NBC's "Meet the Press," said of the investigations.
"We have important business to do as well, the president does have a day job, and it's running the only superpower on God's earth," said another adviser, Paul Begala, on ABC's "This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts."
A majority of Americans appear to agree. The latest Newsweek poll, distributed Saturday, found 57 percent of Americans saying Starr should end his investigation of charges that Clinton committed perjury about his relationship with Lewinsky or encouraged others to lie about it. Thirty-eight percent said Starr should continue.
The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, also recorded 55 percent as saying they would be satisfied with an apology if there is strong evidence Clinton lied about a sexual relationship with the intern. Forty percent said he should be removed from office in such a case.
Another poll, published Sunday in The Washington Post, said two-thirds of respondents wanted Starr either to end the investigation or set a deadline to do so.